In 1959 the thought of producing a mini car became reality as the first mini car was launched. The whole idea originated from British Motor Corporation’s boss Leonard Lord, who came up with the idea in response to bubble cars.
Lord was not a fan of bubble cars, and he envisioned building a car that would seat four, use an existing engine, and run bubble cars off the road.
The idea of fitting four people into a car this compact was unreal at the time. However, designer Alec Issigonis made use of every little inch he had. He devoted 80% of the car’s 10 foot length to passengers and luggage, which left him with no more than 18 inches for the engine and gearbox. With his creativity and innovativeness, he came up with the idea to turn the engine sideways and mount the gearbox beneath it in the oil slump.
This seemed like a great idea at the time, but he soon realized that this could squeeze the engine and gearbox in to drive the front wheels. It took a great deal of time and effort, but Issigonis eventually came up with a way to give passengers the desired space while maintaining the compact size of the car. It was Issigonis’ idea of having most of the car’s weight over the front wheels, along with Alex Moulton’s rubber suspension and quick steering that gave the mini its agility.
In August 1959 there were two models of the mini that were launched, the Morris Mini Minor and the Austin Seven. Although the mini was sold extremely cheap, the overall impression of the vehicle was hesitant among the public because of the car’s complexity. All it took to truly launch the mini was stars Peter Sellers, the Beatles and the Queen to begin driving their own mini cars.
A couple of years after the two mini models were launched, the Cooper version came about. John Cooper drew up a car model for a production Cooper for BMC, and the hot version of the mini was everywhere. Soon after the mini Cooper was created, the mini was the car to have.
The car was produced and manufactured in countries all over the world because of its high demand. Despite the high demand, the car developed rather slowly with the features included inside. BMC began focusing on other cars as oppose to fully developing the mini Cooper, and in 1971 it was dropped.
Regardless, the mini kept selling strong and improvements made by BMW when they owned Rover in 1997 increased sales that had begun to dwindle. The engine was upgraded, the radiator was shifted to the front, a driver’s air-bag was added and side impact beams were included. After 48 years of production, the compact mini vehicle continues to sell to millions around the world.